HRSA gives out $16M to fund telehealth and more in rural communities

By Heather Mack

A variety of healthcare organizations in rural communities got an infusion of cash as part of a $16 million funding package from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The funding is spread out across 60 communities in 32 states to improve quality of care and research to advance understanding of the unique challenges in each community.

The $16 million package, administered by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) within HRSA, consists of four grant programs, which will use the funds on several fronts: to expand the use of telehealth technology (one grant program focuses on veterans, the other for all patients), assist providers with activities to improve care quality, and support policy-oriented research.

“Rural and frontier communities face unique geographic barriers to obtaining comprehensive and convenient health care services,” Jim Macrae, acting administrator of HRSA said in a statement. “These grants are designed to help individuals and communities access the high-quality care they need to live healthier lives.” 

The funds are divvied up as follows:

Under the Telehealth Network Grant Program, 21 community health organizations will receive approximately $300,000 every year for up to three years to build sustainable telehealth programs and networks in medically underserved areas. The program particularly encourages teleconnections to school-based health centers. 

The Flex Rural Veterans Health Access Program, which was given to three organizations to the tune of $300,000 annually for up to three years, is a collaborative effort with the US Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Rural Health that has the primary goal of using telehealth and health information technology to bring mental health and other health services to rural-dwelling veterans.

Seven rural health research centers will each receive $700,000 per year for four years to conduct research to inform policies designed to improve access to healthcare and population health in rural communities.

Over a three-year period, 21 organizations will receive $130,000 to $200,000 per year to improve quality of care for populations with high rates of chronic conditions.

“These grants encourage and support collaboration at the community level, expanding and strengthening the safety net with networks of care in rural areas,” FORHP Associate Administrator Tom Morris said in a statement. “Collaboration among different providers of health and social services within a community means shared resources, shared expertise and shared innovations.”